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USWNT announces departure of union counsel in CBA negotiations

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U.S. women’s national team players say attorney Rich Nichols will no longer serve as the union’s counsel in contract negotiations with the U.S. Soccer Federation.

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The players’ current contract runs through Saturday. Nichols had represented U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team Players Association in negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement, which had become more frequent this month as the deadline approached.

Nichols became executive director of the USWNTPA in late 2014.

“We are focused on productive conversations with U.S. Soccer regarding our future,” the players said in a statement released Wednesday. “We are also grateful for the tremendous ongoing support for women’s soccer from all of our beloved fans worldwide, and look forward to seeing everyone over the course of the NWSL season, as well as at the 2017 SheBelieves Cup in March.”

The players also thanked Nichols for his service. Nichols did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The players said they could not comment further on the matter. Neither the USWNTPA nor U.S. Soccer have filed a 60-day notice of termination that is necessary for a work stoppage, meaning talks will continue into the new year.

[ MORE: Transfer needs for all 20 Premier League clubs in January ]

There were no talks scheduled this weekend.

“We remain committed to working together with the players to continue negotiating a new CBA,” U.S. Soccer Director of Communications Neil Buethe said late Wednesday.

Early this year the U.S. Soccer Federation filed a lawsuit to clarify the Dec. 31 expiration date of the contract with the players’ union. The union had maintained that a memorandum of understanding agreed to in March 2013 can be terminated at any time, ostensibly opening up the possibility of a labor action during the Olympics this past summer.

But a federal judge ruled in June that the team remained bound by a no-strike provision from its 2005-12 collective bargaining agreement.

A group of players had also filed a complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in late March that alleged wage discrimination by the federation. The players maintained that their male national team counterparts earned in many cases far more than they did. There has been no decision in the EEOC complaint.

U.S. soccer has said that much of pay disparity was the result of differences in the collective bargaining agreements with each team.

[ MORE: Monday’s PL roundup – Liverpool draw late; Man Utd keep winning ]

The women’s team had set up its compensation structure, which included a guaranteed salary rather than a pay-for-play model like the men, in the last collective bargaining agreement. The players also earn salaries – paid by the federation – for playing in the National Women’s Soccer League.

The women’s team also receives other benefits, including health care paid for by the U.S. Olympic Committee, that the men’s national team players don’t receive, the federation has maintained.

The next major tournament for the team is the SheBelieves Cup, which is scheduled for March. The first SheBelieves Cup tournament was held earlier this year, featuring matches against France, England and Germany in advance of the Olympic Games.

France veteran Malouda loses appeal in Gold Cup case

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) Former France winger Florent Malouda has lost his appeal against being ruled ineligible to play for French Guiana at the 2017 Gold Cup.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport says its judges dismissed Malouda’s appeal against North American soccer body CONCACAF.

French Guiana fielded Malouda in a 0-0 draw against Honduras last July despite being told he was not eligible. CONCACAF awarded a 3-0 win to Honduras and suspended Malouda.

The Gold Cup uses FIFA eligibility rules which bar players from transferring allegiance after playing a competitive game for one country.

Malouda played 80 times for France including a 2006 World Cup final loss against Italy.

The French Guiana soccer federation hoped Malouda, now aged 37, could play in the Gold Cup because it is not a FIFA member.

Report: Bobby Wood unlikely to come to MLS this summer

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A U.S. Men’s National Team forward will probably have to wait a bit longer to come to Major League Soccer if that is the path that he chooses.

Reports have recently surfaced linking Bobby Wood to MLS at the conclusion of the Bundesliga season, however, MLSSoccer.com is reporting that a move for the American likely won’t come in 2018.

Wood, who remains under contract for three more seasons at Hamburg, is currently fighting relegation in Germany with his club side.

Hamburg currently sits 17th in the German top flight, eight points buried in the relegation zone with four matches remaining.

The MLSSoccer.com report suggests that MLS clubs aren’t willing to compensate Wood at the current rate of his contract in Germany.

Currently, Wood is making “several million dollars” per season, and even if Hamburg is relegated in 2017/18 Wood’s contract wouldn’t decrease to a number that clubs are comfortable paying.

If Wood was to join MLS, he would be considered a Discovery signing as he is not currently on the MLS player allocation list. The Washington Post previously reported that an MLS club has Wood included on their Discovery list, although the team’s identity isn’t known.

Report: Fellaini eyes MLS, China after shooting down Man United terms

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Marouane Fellaini‘s time in Manchester looks to be numbered, and a move abroad could have the Belgian in line for one last payday during his career.

The Manchester United midfielder has rejected multiple offers to stay on at Old Trafford ahead of his contract expiring this summer, which would allow Fellaini to pursue other opportunities come June.

Fellaini is being linked to moves to Major League Soccer and the Chinese Super League, as the veteran aims to secure a sizable contract upon leaving the Red Devils after over five-and-a-half years with the club.

The Daily Mail is also reporting that Fellaini would be open to hearing options that could keep him in the Premier League, although it is unclear if there is any serious interest from English sides at this time.

Since the arrivals of Paul Pogba and Nemanja Matic, Fellaini has struggled to find playing time under manager Jose Mourinho.

This season, the Belgium international has appeared in just 14 PL matches and 19 in all competitions. Fellaini has scored four goals in that span.

Chicago Fire venue to be renamed SeatGeek Stadium

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The Chicago Fire won’t be moving into a new stadium 2019, however, their venue will have a new name donned on the side of it.

For years, the Eastern Conference side has played its home matches at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Illinois, but starting next season the Fire’s home turf will be called SeatGeek Stadium as part of a rebrand.

SeatGeek is one of the largest online after-market ticket distributors, and was created back in 2009.

Toyota Park will undergo its transformation at the conclusion of the 2018 MLS season.

The venue is also home to the NWSL’s Chicago Red Stars.